A drunken man falls from his carriage without hurting himself seriously, remarked Chuang-tsu over two thousand years ago. This is because his body is relaxed and his spirit ‘entire’. But actually confronting a fall, this knowledge is no use – the body automatically contracts and stiffens.
A judo student has to be trained to fall, to meet the ground all together instead of trying to keep off the ground and taking all the shock on one small point such as the wrist. After a time he can meet a fall on the judo mat, and if the teacher says ‘Fall’ he can do so.
Still something is lacking. One day the teacher comes up behind him quietly, and pulls him sharply over. If he falls then properly, it is ‘part of him’, he does it without knowing what he is doing. If the surprise makes him stiffen up, his training is incomplete.
Even after he can pass this test, there is one more. One day he will fall over, on ice or whatever it is, wholly by chance, and will fall properly. Once this has happened, it affects his walking and his judo practice, because before he had always been subconsciously afraid of falling. Now the ground is his friend.
The application in the Ways is to falls in life. To be able to take a disaster or a great failure, with the whole personality, without shrinking back from it, like the big smack with which the judo man hits the ground. Then to rise at once.
Not to be appalled at a moral fall. Yet it is not that it does not matter. The judo man tries by every means not to be thrown, but when he is thrown it does not hurt him and in a sense it does not matter. It matters immensely, and yet it does not matter.
‘Falling seven times, and getting up eight.’